principles reappear and interpenetrate all things, all intellect. In this way there are opposite substance in the world: one is necessity, the other freedom; one rest, the other motion; one power, the other distribution” (Collected Works, 4: 151).
Through the study it was found that there are similarity among Emerson and a group of artists that are named “Visionary artists”. There are generally two definitions for “Visionary Art”. The first is represented in the Mission Statement of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore: “‘Visionary Art’ refers to the art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself”. In this context, the definition of ‘Visionary Art’ is similar to Outsider Art that is the art created outside the boundaries of official culture; more broadly, to include certain self-taught or naive art makers who were never institutionalized (“What is Visionary Art?”). Also it should be mentioned that Blake is one of visionary poets who had great influence on Emerson (Sharma 200). Blake tries to show the essence of everything behind the appearance. He acts as a bard that is inspired by the divine power. The poet reaches unity together with nature as a cosmic union. Also, he sometimes faces the presence of two contrasting concepts like death and life simultaneously (Sharma 202). This notion resembles Emerson’s opinion about opposite concepts which he believes complete each other and are also, inseparable. These opposite qualities are illusions but in fact they have one essence. To put it in other words, Clark Mayo states that “in Emerson’s philosophy all human experiences is one and it is eternally present” (Master Plots, 2: 535).
Emerson through many ideas reveals that there is unity in the world. He maintains that ‘the universal soul’ is the united spirit of the world that contains everything. Through this idea he shows that the real identity of every creature is indeed that universal soul which he names ‘the Over-Soul’.
۲.۲.۱. Individuality in Emerson’s Philosophy
Edgar Lee Masters, in his book Living Thoughts of Emerson, explains that Emerson, in his views about individuality, was under the influence of Persian mysticism. Sufis urged people to believe in their own feelings and be certain that what was true for each individual was true for all. In fact, to a Persian mystic, a great man is one who keeps his individuality (54). Many schools and religions like Transcendentalism and Sufism or Persian mysticism influenced Emerson to shape his doctrine of individuality that is emphasis on finding the truth of the world individually.
Emerson states that each person should individually make a relation with the united spirit of the world, ‘the Over-Soul’ to understand the meaning of the world. Theodore Parker in his essay, “Transcendentalism”, specifies the seminal role that individual conscience plays in Emerson doctrines: “The conscience of each man is to him the moral standard” (۲۴). In “Self-Reliance”, he asserts that instead of obeying the established religion, that he here means Christianity, everyone should follow his own understanding of reality: “Your genuine action will explain itself and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing” (Essays 64). This is clearly a call for individuality in men that he asks his readers to try in their life. He wants everyone to look for the good inside himself not outside: “He who knows that the power is in the soul, that he is weak only because he has looked for good out of him and elsewhere, and so perceiving, throws himself unhesitatingly on his thought, instantly rights himself, stands in the erect position, commands his limbs, works miracles, just as a man who stands on his feet is stronger than a man who stands on his head (Collected Works 3:567). For Emerson, suicide is imitation as it is compared to finding the truth through individual power: If you are not true in the sense of individualism, you are then committing suicide” (۳۲).
When someone hears about individuality, at first, one may think that it refers to egotism, but Emerson, in his writings, tries to reveal the true subjectivism from narrow-minded insistence on one’s own personality or mere intellectual selfishness. He believes that individuality must become subservient to or at least expressed through the universal soul of the world or ‘the Over–Soul’. Indeed, Emerson’s praise for individual was based on this belief that there was an integral connection between God, man, and nature. Actually, the human is capable of much insight, morality and imagination, all of which are originated from his intimate relationship to a higher entity than him, ‘the Over-Soul’ (Payne 100). Payne explains that according to Emerson ‘the Over-Soul’ manifests itself in individual acts of intuition and in the spontaneity of life and consciousness (114). In deed, it is the larger experience of man, which as Tiffany Wayne recites of Emerson, is “the identical nature appearing through all” (qtd. in Wayne, Critical companion to Emerson 207). In fact, he maintains that everyone should try to know the truth of the world individually but this knowledge comes from the relation with a higher power.
In order to make a relation with the higher power of the world man should accept ‘self-reliance’ in order to be able to understand the truth of the world intuitively. Emerson confirms that we must not “imitate any being”, but rather cultivate that self-reliance which grows out of the scripture doctrine of the value of the soul” (qtd. in Myerson 76). He is quite in agreement with Sufis in saying that “through the source of self-reliance, man is led at once to the truth of the world” (Ekhtiar 56).He believes that when someone trusts himself, he will be directly led to the essence of genius and of virtue, to primary wisdom or intuition. In an early entry in his journals, he says “Make your own Bible” (Collected Works, 3:235).When he speaks about ‘self–reliance’ he doesn’t mean egotism and selfishness. As Lawrence Buell writes : “Emerson uses “I” to acknowledge, indeed proclaim, subjectivity of vision but offer the “I” as exemplary of any person’s capability”(۷۷).In fact, when he speaks about individuality he refers not to one’s lower, materialistic, egotistical self, but to one’s higher principled, moral self. He declares that we must not “distrust” ourselves but instead must “value our own souls” (Collected Works, 2:263). He makes a distinction between “private will” and “divine will”. Private will is related to the “Willingness” or selfish part of everyone’s character but divine will is the eternal tendency to the good of the whole which is active in every atom and every moment (Bosco and Myerson 100).
As it was explained Emerson was affected from the ideas of the German philosopher, Emanuel Kant. Mansour Ekhtiar states that the root of some of Emerson’s ideas comes from that of Kant. Kant made a distinction between two kinds of experiences: the world of sense and that of understanding. He believed that understanding revealed everything through intuition as they were, but sensory experience showed things as they appeared (157). In his Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of Practical Reason, Kant declares that some aspects of knowledge like God and morality could be understood intuitively, what he believes to be obtained through that kind of experience that he names ‘understanding’. Similarly, Emerson believes that everyone should use his intuition to make a relation with ‘the Over–Soul’. He writes in “Self-Reliance”:
The magnetism which all original action exerts is explained when we inquire the reason of self-reliance … what is the aboriginal self on which a universal reliance may be grounded? What is the n
ature and power of that science-baffling star, without parallax, without calculable elements, which shoots a ray of beauty even into trivial and impure actions; if the least mark of independence appear? The inquiry leads us to that source, at once the essence of genius, of virtue and of life, which we call spontaneity or instinct. We denote this primary wisdom as intuition…In that deep force, the last fact behind which analysis cannot go; all things find their common origin (Complete works 4:155).
As Emerson believed that the truth of the world would be understood intuitively, so everyone needs self-trust and they should rely on their own understanding of the truth. Emerson brings some reasons to encourage the reader to accept the influence of self-reliance and intuition. In a Journal in 1825, Emerson writes: “the ancient doctrine that a human is but a larger or less emanation from the infinite soul is so agreeable to man’s imagination that it has always been a cherished part of popular belief, “man is but the poor organ through which the breath of him is blown; A torch not lighted for itself (Collected works 2:53).It is the organ through which the universal spirit makes a relation to the individual and tries to take him back.
The idea of individuality is to be found in the ideas of William Blake and generally the visionary poets. The influence of European Romantic writers, like William Blake, is very obvious in the writings of Emerson. Blake’s writings revealed an idiosyncratic mysticism arising from his individual perception of religious subjects. Also, it should be mentioned that he is involved in the artists of the ‘Visionary Art’.
‘Visionary art’ transcends the physical and portrays a wider vision including spiritual and mystical theme. This kind of art is to be known through subjective realm of each individual. It is also worth mentioning that all of the visionary artists use their unconventionally psychic imagination. Joseph Nechvatal, the famous artist of this realm of art, explains that everyone should use the intuitive inner eye to reach to a visionary realm that embraces the entire spectrum of imaginary spaces, from infinitude of forms to formless voids. William Blake calls it ‘divine imagination’, and Sufis ‘alam al-mithal’. Plato also, believes it to be the ‘realm of archetypes’ (Blake and Visionary Art). Percy Bysshe Shelley in his essay “A Defense of Poetry”, also argues that poetry is created in or immediately after the moments of visionary ascent that is understood intuitively of the eternal that is the perfect, non-physical world. He strives to show that poetry is the rendering of such intangible moments in words and images (45).Thus, Emerson, in his usage of the individual power and intuition resembles the visionary artists like Blake since he looks for the .
As mentioned, Emerson like Blake believed in an individual understanding of the religion and the universe. They both resisted established institutions of religion like Christianity, to emphasize more on experiences accessible through the subjective realm of each individual. As Will Stone declares, Blake’s religious philosophy is a call for each individual to recognize the potential of their own creativity and imagination (72). One of the features of Blake’s visionary poetry is the exploration of the